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06/29/2023 03:10:35 PM

Jun29

February 1: It Takes a Village

02/01/2024 01:53:46 PM

Feb1

Fellow Congregants,

The search process is “behind the scenes” most of the time, so it’s not obvious how many people have contributed to our progress. At this point, it’s worth it to say thank you to all who have participated in ways large and small:

  • Congregants, you have supported this process with your interest, your opinions, your emails and your patience. Over 60 of you met with committee members one-on-one, and many more provided input through emails, group meetings and surveys.

  • Past Presidents have continually provided wisdom and perspective. You dove into Unconscious Bias training a first. When we want to impress guests, we introduce them to you.

  • The Board, too, joined in Unconscious Bias training, and has provided continual guidance and support. It was a combination of congregant and Board input that created the criteria for our search.

  • The Search Advisory Group jumped in with listening ears and willing hands, providing a breadth of perspective and fresh energy when it was needed most

  • The Search committee itself has worked tirelessly since July, often meeting multiple times a week and staying up late into the night reviewing materials and doing all the many tasks required to continue our forward motion.

It is impossible to count the many volunteer hours that have been invested in our future since last July. But if we look at just the scheduled meetings and concrete deliverables, it certainly exceeds 4,000 hours. Beth Am has a long history of deep congregant involvement and sense of ownership, and we stepped up to that legacy again this year. Many thanks to all who have contributed so much.

We continue to welcome congregant input; you can send comments or questions to search@betham.org. Thank you.

Loree Farrar, Deb Radin and Ben Lloyd
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

January 11: December/January Progress

12/14/2023 11:26:27 AM

Dec14

Fellow Congregants,

With holidays and travels, it’s been hard to keep up on the updates; we apologize for the gap. Please know that lack of an update does not indicate a lack of progress; just progress of a different sort:

  • At URJ150, a gathering of nearly 1000 Reform Jewish leaders in December, we were able to meet with many rabbis and luminaries from around the country, including some who were eager to continue conversations. Most striking was how consistently Beth Am was described as a leader, an innovator and a congregation that inspires others. It was very gratifying.

  • We have received  a number of applications from rabbis across the country. They are going through our cascading process, which includes reviewing submitted materials, a series of interviews, review of online presence/streamed services, references and in-person meetings at Beth Am. Candidates are in various places along this path.

  • We are progressing with a strong pool of candidates, Rabbi Sarah among them, each of whom has unique strengths to bring to this position.

  • We congratulate Rabbi Jon on accepting a senior rabbi role in Madison;  they are lucky to have him. 

We continue to welcome congregant input; you can send comments or questions to search@betham.org. Our next update will be January 25.

L'Shalom,

Ben Lloyd, Loree Farrar and Deb Radin
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

November 30: What Great Looks Like, Part I

11/30/2023 03:30:00 PM

Nov30

Fellow Congregants,

Our search continues, with a slight lull for turkey and cranberry sauce. Back in September, we had identified nine core competencies to look for based on congregant feedback (See “The Rabbi We Seek,” September 28). As we continue to meet and assess candidates, we thought it might be valuable to drill a little deeper into the criteria we are using, a few at a time.

Big Tent: an inclusive, collaborative leader. This was raised repeatedly in many contexts: religious observance, political perspective, racial and ethnic background, personal history, ability and upbringing. A Big Tent leader makes each individual feel personally welcome, and  is unafraid to make the systemic changes needed to ensure inclusion for those who might have felt left out in the past. A Big Tent leader helps all of us appreciate each others’ differences as elements which enrich, rather than erode, our community.

Emotional Intelligence. A competency that permeates all others. High emotional intelligence is reflected in 3 C’s: Consciousness (of your own emotions and impact), Compassion for those who are different, and deep Connection. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, “if you want to change lives, speak to people’s feelings, not just their minds. At the very end of his life, the greatest of all prophets, Moses, turned to emotional intelligence, knowing that unless he did so, his teachings might enter the minds of the Israelites, but not their hearts, their passions, their emotive DNA.”

Emotional intelligence incorporates Pastoral Care, the search for the Divine in the circumstances of our lives, with the goal of helping the congregant find meaning and purpose in his/her situation.

Spiritual Leadership. A great spiritual leader leads by example, and is deep in matters of the Mind, Heart and Soul. Spiritual leadership puts service before self-interest, inspires trust and nourishes wholeness. Spiritual leadership includes the ability to give inspiring and engaging sermons.

As we’ve said repeatedly, we welcome congregant input. Many have already reached out to us with valuable perspectives, shared thoughtfully with grace and gratitude. Thank you for being partners in this search. You can send comments or questions to search@betham.org. Our next update will be December 14, when we will continue delving into our core competencies.

L'Shalom,

Deb Radin, Ben Lloyd and Loree Farrar
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

November 16: Describing Our Community

11/16/2023 12:40:59 PM

Nov16

Fellow Congregants,

We continue to receive applicants, and, through our partners at the CCAR (the Reform movement rabbinic organization), have proactively contacted a number of talented rabbis who could be a good fit for Beth Am. This part of the process can be quite sensitive, and requires us to keep the names of applicants and potential applicants confidential.

In addition, every congregant who will be interacting with candidates directly has completed Unconscious Bias Training, either virtually or led by the very talented Donnovan Yisrael. By becoming more aware of our own biases, we can open our minds to the best rabbis who come through our doors, rather than limiting ourselves based on preconceptions that may have little value in predicting success. It’s more fair to our applicants, and it drives a better outcome for us.

Several people have asked about our job posting. Here it is — all 12 pages of it. This reflects the priorities you described in the survey and meetings over the summer, and incorporates incredibly helpful feedback from the Search Advisory Group. What a photogenic congregation we are!

As we’ve said many times, we welcome congregant input, particularly about considerations that are important to you. We will not make any decisions until we have met with all viable candidates, and will evaluate all candidates against the same criteria, which were published earlier. You can send comments or questions to search@betham.org. Our next update will be coming November 30.

L'Shalom,

Deb Radin, Ben Lloyd and Loree Farrar
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

November 2: Incoming!

11/02/2023 01:59:41 PM

Nov2

Fellow Congregants,

We have begun to receive applicants! It’s an exciting time in our search, when we begin to see the remarkable rabbis who lead our movement. As a reminder, the CCAR (the Reform movement rabbinic organization) requires us to keep the names of applicants confidential; the Jewish world is small, and we don’t want to create friction for our applicants and their current communities.

Since our last update on October 19, we’ve done a lot to prepare for this stage:

  • Engaged the Board, Past Presidents, and Search Advisory Group in several in-person meetings, which brings a breadth of perspectives to the search that is unique at this stage.
  • Identified a list of leading rabbis who interest us; we will research and reach out to them proactively, through our partners in the CCAR.
  • Built a process to handle incoming applicants, which includes a conversation, online research, and a series of virtual interviews, leading to references and in-person meetings for top candidates.

November will be busy!

Want to talk informally about the search? You can always send comments or questions to search@betham.org. Our next update will be November 16.

L'Shalom,

Deb Radin, Ben Lloyd and Loree Farrar
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

October 19: Making Progress

10/19/2023 04:50:22 PM

Oct19

Fellow Congregants,

A lot has happened in our search since our last update, on October 5:

  • We saw many of you in person at the pre-neg on Friday, October 6 — thanks for coming!
  • We have oriented the Board, Past Presidents and Search Advisory Committee to the search process and their roles in it.
  • We have completed our job posting for sharing through the CCAR, the Reform movement rabbinic organization. This is a big accomplishment:  the template requires a lot of thought and much detail, so that potential candidates can understand who we are and what we need.
  • We have created multiple detailed templates to be used when we are interviewing candidates.
  • The entire Search Committee has participated in training on Behavioral Interviewing, a well-established technique to elicit concrete and predictive descriptions of a candidate’s capabilities.

We are on track to be talking to candidates about Beth Am in the very near future. Although we will not be able to share the names of specific candidates, which is not permitted in the CCAR process, we will continue to keep you apprised of our progress in general.

Want to talk informally about the search? You can always send comments or questions to search@betham.org. Our next update will be November 2.

L'Shalom,

Deb Radin, Ben Lloyd and Loree Farrar
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

October 5: Our Rabbis Today

10/05/2023 04:50:22 PM

Oct5

Fellow Congregants,

As we’ve been listening to you in both organized and casual settings, one question comes up again and again: what about our current rabbis? Indeed, we are fortunate to have three long-serving and talented rabbis at Beth Am. As of this writing, Rabbi Sarah and Rabbi Jon have both asked to be considered for the Senior Rabbi position. Rabbi Heath has indicated that he is eager to continue at Beth Am in his current role, for which we are grateful.  

Our objective as a Search Committee is to ensure that we get the very best rabbi to lead Beth Am into the future. In addition, we commit to treating all candidates with kindness — especially those whom we already know and love. This means that we need a process that is both thorough and respectful. Our plan to achieve this is as follows:

  • All candidates will be evaluated against the same criteria, which were published last week.
  • The process for all candidates, internal and external, will be similar, with extraneous elements removed. (For instance, we will not ask our current clergy to demonstrate sermons.)
  • We will refrain from making a final recommendation to the Board until all candidates, both internal and external, have been reviewed. While this is more labor intensive, ultimately the congregation is better served by a comprehensive process.

As you can imagine, this is a sensitive time for all involved, particularly for our current clergy. You can help make the situation less awkward by not allowing the search to dominate conversations, and by continuing to treat all of our clergy with the care and tenderness they deserve. 

You are always welcome to share your perspectives with the Search Committee, as we’ve said many times. Be assured that we are already aware that each of our rabbis has many fans: the depth of your insight, particularly around specific interactions that may not be generally visible, is more helpful than the quantity of emails we receive.

Want to talk informally about the search? Join us at the First Friday Pre-Neg tomorrow night at 5:30 PM in the Sanctuary Foyer; we’d love to see you there. Of course, you can always send comments or questions to search@betham.org. Our next update will be released on Thursday, October 19.

L'Shalom,

Deb Radin, Ben Lloyd and Loree Farrar
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

September 28: The Rabbi We Seek

09/28/2023 04:00:10 PM

Sep28

Fellow Congregants,

It was a pleasure to see so many Beth Am members at High Holy Day services this year. Special thanks to those who attended our Yom Kippur Study Session, “On Leadership:  Like God on a Good Day.” Your insights into wisdom, compassion, humility, spirituality and leadership were invaluable.

We have now completed our in-depth analysis of input from group and individual meetings, Search Advisory Group input, long-form survey responses, Hazon recommendations, and informal conversations. We are remarkably consistent in what we seek. Our community has identified the following nine priorities, listed roughly in order of importance:

  • A “Big Tent” leader, collaborative, inclusive, able to respectfully engage multiple perspectives and deal with conflict.
  • High emotional intelligence: kind and compassionate, humble and with a sense of humor.
  • Wise and learned, with deep Jewish knowledge, and an excellent teacher.  Curious.
  • A spiritual leader who respects a range of ritual practices, and leads inspiring services with engaging sermons.
  • Experienced in large or medium synagogues, ideally as a senior rabbi; ability to mentor others;  excellent at change management; visionary and innovative.
  • A transparent communicator, capable of using a variety of media and methods.
  • An educator who can teach people of all ages.
  • An advocate for social justice.
  • Someone who reflects a deep love of Israel.

These priorities will be described in our job posting, which we will share with you as soon as it’s published, and will be built into our interview guides.

One congregant has said that what we’re looking for “...is like God on a good day.” But maybe we’re on the right track. In the Mishneh Torah, we are taught: “Just as God is called Gracious, you too must be gracious. Just as God is called Compassionate, you too must be compassionate. Just as God is called Holy, you too must be holy.” Each of us is called to imitate God to the best of our ability; we are merely asking the rabbi we call to do the same.

Want to talk informally about the search? We will be sponsoring the First Friday Pre-Neg on Friday, October 6 at 5:30 PM in the Foyer; we’d love to see you there. Of course, you can always send comments or questions to search@betham.org — we are eager to hear from you. Our next update will be coming on Thursday, October 5.

L'Shalom,

Deb Radin, Ben Lloyd and Loree Farrar
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

September 14: Thank you, Hazon

09/14/2023 01:12:02 PM

Sep14

Fellow Congregants,

As we enter our period of deepest reflection, it is worth reflecting on the gifts we have received from others in the past year. Of course, I am speaking of the tremendous efforts and thoughtful suggestions of the Hazon Task Force. That work, which is based on input from hundreds of congregants, has been a foundation for the work of the Search Committee. For that we are truly grateful.

Hazon provided over 30 specific suggestions related to the search process, almost all of which will be reflected in some way. Some are relevant to stages of the search that lie ahead of us; others you have already seen. These include:

  • Creating a Search Advisory Group, to broaden the perspectives of those directly contributing to the search
  • Seeking broad input from a variety of stake-holder groups, as well as from individual congregants
  • Deepening involvement of the Board of Directors, specifically with regard to establishing search criteria
  • Maximizing visibility throughout the process

Perhaps the most thought-provoking input Hazon provided was their assessment of the most critical criteria for selection of our next rabbi, based on what they heard from congregants. Hazon recommends that our next rabbi should have:

Experience and skills with operating in a congregation that is similar to Beth Am in key dimensions (education, pastoral care, spirituality, worship, size, diversity of opinions on key topics, supervisory and management skills, etc.)

Not surprisingly, these align closely with criteria that congregants themselves have highlighted in recent listening meetings, survey responses, and individual conversations with Search Committee members.  They will certainly guide our search.

  • Experience and demonstrable skills with helping people with divergent views feel comfortable within the big tent
  • Management skills and leadership experience in addition to other rabbinic skills (e.g. pastoral, teaching)
  • Experience with healing or reducing the impact of polarized views on key topics
  • Patience to develop the trust of the Congregation by embracing what we do now, and only after that trust is there, start envisioning a future, and leading the Congregation towards that future

Thank you, Hazon, for the strong foundation which you have built, and on which we now stand.

As always you can send comments or questions to search@betham.org — we are eager to hear from you. You can also identify us at Beth Am gatherings by our name-tags, which have chairs on them. Our next update will be after Yom Kippur.  We hope to see you on Yom Kippur afternoon, when we will be leading a study session which will  delve into concepts of leadership.

L’shana tova u’metuka,

Deb Radin, Ben Lloyd and Loree Farrar
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

September 7: What you've said so far

09/07/2023 01:00:00 PM

Sep7

Fellow Congregants,
 
Thank you for all your thoughtful comments throughout the month of August. As of this writing, we have: 

  • 161 responses to the Invitation to Provide Input
  • 62 requests for individual meetings (by now you should have heard from us to set something up; if not, please drop a note)
  • 8 listening sessions with the Search Advisory Group, including roughly 50 individuals
  • Many, many conversations which inform our thinking

So what are folks saying? We want someone who is both brilliant and humble. Approachable, but with gravitas. Spiritual, and financially astute. As one congregant commented, “When you listen to what we want in a senior rabbi, it’s like God on a good day.” Here’s a word cloud that reflects the most common responses to the “give three words” question in the survey.* There’s a lot to chew on here!

We are analyzing all the comments in depth and will combine that analysis with input from congregant listening sessions, the Board, staff and program team to make our formal description that will be shared with applicants and with you after Yom Kippur. 

As this phase of the process is wrapping up, we will continue to keep lines of communication open:

  • Search Committee and Search Advisory Group members will be easily identifiable at Beth Am events: our name tags will have chairs on them, so you can find us.
  • There will be a study session on Yom Kippur, focused on aspects of leadership that you value.
  • The Search Advisory Group will continue listening.
  • Per your suggestions, Search Committee materials are now available on our website under “What’s Happening,” which doesn’t require logging in.

As always you can send comments or questions to search@betham.org — we are eager to hear from you. Our next update will be after Yom Kippur. We hope to see you on Yom Kippur afternoon to delve into concepts of leadership.

L’shalom,

Deb Radin, Ben Lloyd and Loree Farrar
Senior Rabbi Search Co-chairs

*What’s a word cloud? A graphic representation of free text; the bigger the font, the more frequently the word appeared. Our word cloud shows the 60 most commonly used words to describe our next senior rabbi, outside of proper names.

Wed, June 12 2024 6 Sivan 5784